It’s now official: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is leaving the LA Galaxy. He’ll likely return to Europe sooner rather than later.
He left with a triumphant message for a league he never respected, even though he never led his team to success. Proclaiming himself as having “conquered” a league despite never rising above the third-best player in that league, and also failing very notably in the most important games, is pretty bold.
So Zlatan walks away having accomplished his goals of scoring a ton and yelling at teammates even more. The Galaxy, all told, will probably be a better team without him.
LA will now have money to spend to sign an attacker who can fit better in real soccer tactics and replace some of Zlatan’s scoring production. Because they’re the Galaxy, all sorts of players will come up in the rumor mill. Let’s do some wild speculating on some potential high-profile Zlatan replacements.
Edinson Cavani, PSG
Cavani is the clearest candidate. The most recent rumors have surrounded the Uruguayan, who was linked with Inter Miami in the summer and appears to have lost his starting spot as PSG’s striker. At 32, Cavani is not far from his prime, and has compiled 336 club goals in an illustrious career, per Transfermarkt. He’s scored at three World Cups for his country.
He is a favorable option both because of his stardom and his position. He’d slot into LA’s lineup as a pure No. 9, taking Zlatan’s spot directly.
Mesut Ozil, Arsenal
As a midfield play-maker with vague positional qualifications, Ozil is not as clear a replacement. But he’s 31 and remains a world-class player. An Ozil-Cristian Pavon combination, with Sebastian Lletget covering ground behind them, could be interesting.
Ozil has fallen a bit out of favor under the unpopular Unai Emery at Arsenal, though the German went 90 in the last two league games prior to the international break. If Arsenal seem ready to sell, Ozil has said he’s open to an MLS move. D.C. United and Miami have been linked to him as well.
Gareth Bale, Real Madrid
This is pretty ambitious, but nothing is off the table. It’s not a secret that things aren’t perfect for Bale at Madrid, where he has never quite seemed to fit in. He recently said he enjoys playing for Wales more than Real. Despite not playing for Madrid since October 5, he is in Baku, Azerbaijan with his country to play important Euro 2020 qualifiers.
The Galaxy would have to pay up for the 30-year-old Bale. It’s probably worth it, if they can manage it.
Mario Balotelli, Brescia
Balotelli has long been linked to an MLS move, and he’d certainly be an entertaining option. The top Google results when you search “Balotelli LA Galaxy” are videos of his infamous unnecessary backheel from a friendly in LA when he was with Manchester City.
Pull the trigger, Galaxy. Balotelli might have a better time in Southern California than Italy.
Adam Lallana, Liverpool
Any high-priced European player on the market will interest the Galaxy, who love themselves a high-priced European. Lallana has recently been linked to an MLS move, though it hasn’t been specified which teams might have a chance at acquiring him.
Inserting Lallana into attacking midfield would obviously help the Galaxy. They’d probably still be in the market for a scoring attacker if they go this direction.
Lallana’s contract expires after the end of 2020 Premier League season, so LA might have to wait until the summer to acquire his services. If they have a chance to nab him, they will take it.